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Use Your Holiday Shopping To Build Your Childâ™s Brain Power

This holiday season, buy the toys your children really want and boost their brain power at the same time.  Yes, that’s actually possible. 

As the director of a Charlotte brain training center that serves typical children and those with learning disabilities, I’ve found certain toys and games are definitely helpful in building cognitive skills.  Other toys are about as valuable as the plastic they come in.  Here’s my guide to toys and games worth your dollars for their brain-building value. 
Look below for the child that sounds like yours, then see which toys and games to try.
Is your child slow with most assignments or things he does? 
He may have processing speed issues.  Processing speed is related to how quickly the brain takes in information and executes a task.  Look for timed games and activities in which your child races to get something done and beat the clock.
Fun choices include Wii sports (which will help give your child quick motor response).  Or multi-colored play stacking cones can be used to build speed.  Your child can see first how many  he can stack in 60 seconds, or how many can be stacked following a color pattern.
Do your child’s drawings look immature or ill-proportioned, compared to drawings by other children her age?
She may have visual processing difficulties.  Visual processing is the ability to discriminate and manipulate visual images. There are plenty of enjoyable games that build visual skills: 
  •  Pictureka.  Hunt for a variety of items that are "hidden" among other items.
  • Toys that have to be put together, including Legos, Magnetics (magnetic building pieces), and Transformers.
  • Blokus. Build surface area by matching colors at appropriate angles in this challenging game.
Does your child have difficulty with word problems in math?  Or, in everyday life, does he have difficulty thinking of alternatives for solving a problem? 
He may have sequencing, organization, or logic and reasoning difficulties.  Choose games that involve cause-and-effect, such as:
  • Jenga.  Pull blocks from towers but try to keep the tower standing. 
  • Othello.  Turn all the tokens your color while you develop a strategy to take over the board and a strategy to block your opponent. 
Does your child have difficulty following directions or reading? 
Work to enhance her auditory processing skills.  Auditory processing is an individual’s ability to discriminate, identify and manipulate sounds.

One of the best ways to enhance auditory processing is the classic

Scrabble game.  There’s also Scrabble junior.
 For children ages 5-8, try What’s Gnu?, a three-letter word race. Have you thought about engaging your child in the kitchen? A cookbook is a great gift to build skills in reading and following directions.
Does your child learn something one day but forget it the next?   
Memory skills are related to new learning, storing and retrieval. A poor memory may not be allowing your child to hold the information. Try:
  • Perfection, a shape-matching race.
  • Card games Set and Uno to reinforce memory skills

Never knew so many learning opportunities were as close as your local retailer, did you? You can feel good about making these purchases for your children.  They’ll do even better if you participate in these games and activities with them.

Dr. Vicki Parker is owner of Learning Rx in Charlotte.  Reach her at or 704.541.1373